Eye Allergies

Many people have allergic reactions which occur in their eyes and it’s important to know how to recognize these symptoms, how to prevent future reactions and to know what course of action to take in this kind of situation. 

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Allergic reactions have a variety of symptoms, some of which manifest in the eyes and can occur at any age. Many of these symptoms in the eyes caused by allergies could be similar to symptoms caused by a virus, bacterial infection or various other conditions. It’s important to understand what to look out for in an allergic reaction and to be able to identify the trigger in order to try to prevent similar reactions in the future. An allergic reaction is typically a response to otherwise harmless things like food, medications, animals or pollen. The reaction can occur immediately with exposure to the allergen or it could take place hours later. Allergies are not contagious and are considered to have a genetic element as it could be inherited from your parents. 

There are good treatment options which can be used at home, but if the symptoms are not going away in a day or so then please schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. In case of a severe allergic reaction, the swelling might extend itself to the rest of the face, along with difficulty breathing. This is considered an anaphylactic allergic reaction and you must call an ambulance for emergency care right away. If the person experiencing the anaphylactic allergic reaction carries an epinephrine injection, please use it immediately while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive. 

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Other Common Allergy Symptoms

Other allergic symptoms to look out for, outside of the eyes, include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Hives 
  • Swelling

In order to identify an anaphylactic allergic reaction, if you see any of the following, call 911:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightness in throat
  • Dizziness, losing consciousness


Some of the home remedies that can help relieve symptoms due to an allergic reaction are as follows:

  • Avoid using contact lenses for a few days 
  • Rinsing the eyes if there is discharge
  • Cold compress on the eyes 
  • Artificial tear drops
  • Eye drops with antihistamine to relieve itchiness and a mast-cell stabilizer to prevent allergic reactions in the eyes

If these treatment methods are not working, please schedule an eye exam with your eye doctor. They may prescribe eye drops with steroids which can only be used if recommended by a medical professional.



It is very important to identify what is triggering an allergic reaction. You can schedule an appointment with a doctor who specializes in allergies and this doctor can perform allergy tests to discover the cause. Once you know what is triggering an allergic reaction, you can do everything possible to avoid exposure to this allergen. 

If your allergies are caused by environmental factors which cannot be avoided, such as certain plants that are found in the area you live in, your doctor may prescribe allergy medicine that can be taken frequently to help relieve symptoms. If you have serious life-threatening allergies, you will be prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector to carry with you in case of an anaphylactic emergency.

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Common Questions

It is true that both conditions can cause red, irritated and teary eyes and both can make wearing contact lenses difficult. However, the main allergy symptom in the eyes is itchiness, as opposed to dry eyes which cause a burning gritty sensation. If it’s dry eyes, then artificial tear drops will provide much more relief than it would in allergies. It’s important to pay attention if the eye irritation has gotten worse during a certain season which could allude to seasonal allergies or if the person has recently been exposed to an allergen which could also signify an allergic reaction. In addition, if the person has certain conditions related to allergies such as asthma or eczema then they would be more prone to experience allergic symptoms in their eyes. If you are not sure what is the cause of your red irritated eyes, please call our office to schedule an appointment with the eye doctor who can diagnose and treat the condition.
An allergen is usually harmless but it triggers the immune system of a person with an allergy to that particular substance. Certain cells inside the eyes, known as mast cells, will release histamine in response to an allergen if that person is allergic to the specific substance. This causes red, itchy and watery eyes. There are countless possible allergens but some of the main ones include: dust, pullen, various plants, mold, animals, perfume, cosmetics, foods, medication, latex.
Since both UV rays and small particles can cause eye allergies, it follows that sunglasses or glasses can provide a certain level of protection from eye allergies by blocking the UV rays or the pollen or dust particles from entering the eye. That said, the amount of allergens blocked may not be enough to prevent your symptoms, therefore it is best to prevent seasonal eye allergies in the first place in order to get rid of them. It is possible to reduce and prevent eye allergies to a certain extent by wearing prescription glasses or sunglasses outdoors, especially wrap around frames. Their purpose is to limit the amount of particles, dust, and pollen that can enter the eye directly and cause irritation and reaction. Just like glasses and sunglasses can prevent allergens from entering the eye, Scleral contact lenses, which are large diameter contact lenses, are considered a helpful way of reducing eye allergy symptoms in patients.
Recent research has shown that reducing eye allergy symptoms also reduces allergy symptoms in the nasal passageways as well. While this is great news for allergy sufferers, the full extent of the impact is still unknown, and we recommend that our patients with eye allergies see an allergist to treat non-ocular allergies.
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Allergic reactions are a common phenomenon and very often affect the eyes. It’s important to be able to know how to identify an allergic reaction and to know how to treat it. There are effective home treatments for mild to moderate allergic reactions. If it’s not helping then please schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. It’s possible that what appears to be an allergic reaction is in fact a different condition and therefore the treatment isn’t working. The eye doctor can properly diagnose and treat the symptoms in your eyes. 

If the allergic reaction is a life-threatening anaphylactic episode then call 911 right away for emergency care.

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